Dem Candidates Attending Pelosi-Headlined Fundraiser Won't Commit to Voting for Pelosi as Speaker

Dems in competitive California races try to distance themselves from minority leader

Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi / Getty Images
July 16, 2018

Two Democratic candidates in competitive California House races were publicly trying to distance themselves from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) even as they walked into a D.C. fundraiser she was headlining last week.

California Democrat Gil Cisneros, who is running to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ed Royce, while walking up to attend the fundraiser at a Capitol Hill townhouse declined to respond when asked whether he would vote for Pelosi to keep her Democratic leadership position if he wins his congressional campaign.

Cisneros traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend a July 11 fundraiser hosted by Equality California, an LGBT rights organization, which Pelosi, as well as the state's Democratic senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, were headlining to help attract top Democratic donors to the event.

Cisneros, a Navy veteran and lottery winner, became one of the latest Democratic candidates to say he will not vote for Pelosi for speaker if his party takes back the House this fall, and Pelosi runs for the top House leadership post.

He is running against the top vote-getter in the open primary, GOP candidate Young Kim, in an Orange County district that was long considered the most conservative in California.

Katie Hill, a Democratic candidate who is locked in a tight race against Rep. Steve Knight (R., Calif.) in a district north of Los Angeles, also declined to commit to voting for Pelosi for a leadership post as she entered the same D.C. fundraiser.

Hill said only that she is "taking it one day at a time," when asked if her attendance at the fundraiser meant she would be supporting Pelosi for speaker if she won the seat and Democrats took over the House majority.

Cisneros and Hill are two of seven California Democratic candidates running for seats in districts that Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential contest. Democrats have long said their path to the majority runs through California, and their success could depend on their ability to flip the seats.

Numerous Democratic candidates, especially those running in districts previously held by Republicans, have pledged not to support Pelosi following a win by Conor Lamb in a Pennsylvania special election, during which his opposition to Pelosi was a central plank in his campaign.

Cisneros, in late June said he would not vote for Pelosi for a leadership post, should he win the seat.

"While I respect Leader Pelosi's years of advocacy on behalf of California and the Democratic Party, it's time for new leadership," Cisneros said in a statement ono June 21.

Republicans have cited the fundraiser as proof that Cisneros's attempt to separate himself from Pelosi rings hollow.

"Gil Cisneros must not think Southern California families are very smart," said Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, House Republicans' election arm. "It's simple: If you take Nancy's money, you own her baggage.

A Cisneros campaign spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon that Cisneros has not accepted any money directly from Pelosi or other members of the Democratic leadership.

He did not respond to a question on whether directly benefitting from a fundraiser Pelosi is headlining undermines his efforts to distance himself from her.